When people go to the doctor to receive medical treatment at a hospital they expect to receive treatment that cures their condition or makes a condition more manageable. In the case where doctors and surgeons are unable to cure or address the condition, people are generally understanding when the condition was too advanced or unforeseeable complications occur. What people do not expect and often cannot accept is when preventable medical errors result in bad medical outcomes, a decrease chance of survival, or even the patient’s wrongful death.
Unfortunately, it seems that medical errors are more prevalent than ever. A recent study released by researchers suggests that shortcomings in tracking statistics are hiding a crisis from the public eye. They claim that if statistics tracked medical errors and practices regarding accounting for death were better developed medical errors would be the third leading cause of deaths in the United States.
Is Medical Malpractice the Third Highest Cause of Deaths?
A simple fact is that no one actually knows whether medical mistakes and medical malpractice are the third highest cause of deaths. This is because the coding system used by the CDC does not account for medical mistakes like poor judgment by the doctor or medical professional, miscommunication, failure to communicate, or diagnostic errors.
However, a study conducted by researchers working at john Hopkins Medicine claims that medical errors should rank behind only heart disease and cancer in causing deaths in the United States. The John Hopkins study claims that greater than 250,000 Americans are wrongfully killed each year due to medical errors. A full analysis of the data is available in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).
CDC Disputes Characterizations of Researchers But Admits Some Problems
Bob Anderson who is the chief of the mortality statistics branch of the CDC does not believe that medical coding practices are hiding the problem. He states that medical complications are both captured by codes and included on death certificates. However, he does admit that the CDC’s mortality statistics may not capture the full picture. This is because the published mortality statistics only capture the underlying cause of death, which is the condition that caused the patient to seek medical treatment. Since patients do not seek treatment for medical errors that have yet to be made, this cause or contributing factor to deaths is likely extremely underreported.
Failure to Capture Medical Errors Harms Patient Health
Other watchdog organizations for patients, such as the National Patient Safety Foundation, also echo the claim that medical errors should be considered the third leading cause of patient deaths. Unfortunately, calls to better recognize the problem presented by medical mistakes has yet to filter into the mainstream. This further harms patient health because if the problem is not recognized, additional resources cannot be devoted to studying and remedying the problem. Rather, the problem continues to lurk in the shadows while the deaths continue to mount.
Are all Bad Medical Outcomes Medical Mistakes or Malpractice?
While it appears that medical errors may be significantly more prevalent than many previously believed, it is important to point out that not all bad medical outcomes are necessarily medical malpractice. In fact, it is certainly possible for a doctor or surgeon to do everything right and to engage in all necessary precautions and still have a bad outcome for the patient. While a bad outcome in the form of an injury or death is generally required to make a malpractice claim, that injury or death must result from a deviation from the professional standard of care. This deviation from the standard of care plus the injury or damages are the basics of what makes something a viable medical malpractice claim.
However, even potentially viable medical malpractice claims must be supported by the statement of an expert witness in the field both at the pleading stage and at any trial. Therefore, working with a medical malpractice attorney who understands not only the body of law but also what makes for a credible and qualified expert witness is essential. The defense counsel will undoubtedly attempt to attack the credibility and impeach your expert witnesses. In many cases when the credibility of your expert witness crumbles, you can no longer support essential elements you must prove.
Work with Experienced Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm are experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys. Attorney Jeffrey Reiff has more than 36 years of –experience fighting for injury victims in Pennsylvania. To schedule a confidential free consultation call their Philadelphia law offices at (215) 246-9000 today.